Coup defeated in Turkey – a victory to be welcomed

Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge - Turks taking over tanks deployed in the coup attempt

By Stephen Bell

The defeat of the attempted coup in Turkey is an important victory. The overthrow of the elected President Morsi in Egypt demonstrates the sort of fatalities and repression that follow such actions. This time, a mass mobilisation of the Turkish people opposed the tanks. This mobilisation was supported by the major opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). In Egypt, the comparable parties supported the coup, and guaranteed the success of the counter-revolution. For Turkey, the united front of all those defending democracy was sufficient to stop the coup.

The immediate background was a two-fold process. Internationally, the AKP government was starting to reorient towards Russia, as a counter to complete dependency upon the US. The Turkish government had sent an apology to the Russian government for the downing of a Russian plane last year. The killer of the Russian pilot had also been arrested. Continued instability in Syria has not helped Turkey, with ISIS launching a number of unacknowledged bombings inside Turkey. Concern about the progress of the PYD forces in Syria has also begun to prompt a less hostile attitude to Assad.

At the same time, domestically, the continued organisation of the Gulenist forces was destabilising the state. The AKP government was planning a purge in state institutions, including in the army. Presumably the Gulenist organisation decided to move first, and launched the coup. Given that they missed assassinating Erdogan by just 15 minutes, the coup could well have succeeded.

Inside Turkey, there remains a high level of civil mobilisation, at the same time as a state of emergency has been declared. The government has, of course, begun a purge of state institutions against those who supported the coup. In general, this has been supported by the opposition parties. The foreign press and media response to this has been repulsive. Skipping over the deaths of 265 civilians, and 2,200 wounded, the pro-imperialist forces want to lecture the Turkish government against repressive measures. Those civilians were shot by soldiers, run over by tanks, and shot from helicopters. Only 24 pro-coup soldiers were killed in the coup.

The numbers of those arrested may seem high, with over a thousand army officers, nearly five hundred air force officers and 160 navy officers detained. Equally 15,000 people were detained immediately after the coup, with 8000 still detained at the time of writing. But this is in a country of over 78 million people. The successful coup in Egypt resulted in the killing of between 1800 and 3000 civilians; 41,000 political prisoners today, 3 years later; hundreds of death sentences being handed out; and the outlawing of the most popular political party in Egypt.

There is every reason to believe that US imperialism, and its allies, supported the coup. The Turkish government is seeking freedom to manoeuvre, but the US would prefer if it fell in behind Saudi Arabia’s growing regional influence. Questioning the right of the Turkish government to take repressive measures against the coup organisers is a cipher for disappointment at the coup’s failure. The US government has been very comfortable with the Egyptian dictatorship, and would quickly accommodate a Turkish Sisi.

The General National Assembly has voted to establish a commission to investigate the coup. The AKP, CHP, HDP and MHP all voted unanimously in favour of this course. The Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, also announced that “All main parties are ready to work on a new constitution”. President Erdogan has met the CHP and MHP leaders, but not so far Selahattin Demirtes of the HDP.

Intelligent and critical engagement by all pro-democracy forces will ensure the most favourable development of the post-coup situation. A by-product of the coup’s defeat may be the resurrection of the peace process with the Kurdish people. One of the most senior officers detained, General Adem Huduti was the commander of the Second Army, responsible for the counter insurgency operations against the Kurds, following the collapse of the peace process in July 2015. There have been some skirmishes in the Kurdish South East region. But there been only one strike against PKK bases in Iraq, and the PKK hasn’t immediately taken advantage of the internal disruption. Many Kurds followed the call of Erdogan to take to the streets against the coup. It is vital that the AKP government fully brings the HDP into the political process, and commits to reviving the wider peace process.